final mixes: some thoughts on mastering prep….

Down to the last week of doing final mixes on “In 4 the Evening“… it’s ‘crunch time’ as the sportscasters say. A few more things are known now: the album goes to mastering by May 8th; Brian Hazard at Resonance Mastering will be doing the mastering work again as he did on the first album. I liked the work he did on the first album last year and he’s a Depeche Mode, Cure, and Smiths-influenced guy so he understands the sound I’m trying to get. I highly recommend him.

And the official release date for the album is now set for May 27th – Memorial Day weekend. “In 4 the Evening” will be available as both a digital download (MP3) album and also on CD through CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon and all the usual online outlets.

Front cover.................................... Back cover

Here at la casa NoV, if the house/move was the project that ate the month of March, final mixing the album was the project that ate the month of April. Our cat Maxx has been a constant companion down in the Mancave with me during the month o’ mixing and on a few late night sessions, I can attest to the effectiveness of 5-Hour Energy drink, Extra Strength, which does exactly what it says it will do, better than coffee (reminds me of the Jolt cola days in grad school).

All songs have now gone through the first final mixdown process – I do two, because this is after all, the last chance you have to get your best sound out of what you’ve recorded before it hits the streets where it’s more or less set in stone (unless you do a re-mix, re-master at a later date) and where it will be judged… for-ev-er. OK, maybe that’s a little overly dramatic, but your album will now be ‘out there’…

A few things encountered along the way and learned with this release:

1) Don’t upgrade your software in the middle of an album. If you’re a computer-based musician, it may be tempting to get those extra bells and whistles in the new software package and start incorporating them into what you’re doing, but you will probably be creating extra work for yourself at the back end. I went from Reason 4 to 6 on this album, mainly because Reason 6 integrated the previously standalone Record software into it for a more seamless recording workflow and while that’s a very good thing and it is easier…  now, I had to adjust my own working process to it and that took the better part of a month. There may also be compatibility issues between the new software and drivers for your external audio interface but they’re usually quickly resolved. Closely related to this is…

2) Expect the unexpected. A good example of this was provided when I started working on the final mix for “All Phenomena Are Dreams.” Since I recorded it last summer I expected there would be more work involved on this one – I just didn’t know how much. I’ve ended up pretty much re-mixing the entire song now but only after I discovered a routing problem in the recording connections by accident. “All Phenomena…” always sounded a little different from the others, like it was recorded in a cave or something and it was tough to EQ it correctly. At one point I considered leaving it off the album and going with another song that was more ready to go because it just wasn’t coming together.

Well, now we know why… Turns out when I added an echo effect module to one individual track it affected the drum track too and I went searching through the connections, found the culprit, and re-routed. It may have happened during the upgrade but more than likely it was probably there from almost the very beginning, the result of taking off another effect module somewhere else, so it’s good to always check your routing connections when you’ve made any changes, no matter how small.

In this case it worked out well – the song has never sounded better (at just the right time) – but it happened only by accident in the process of trying to improve the song and, as most artists will tell you, when they’re being honest, we live by the ‘happy accident.’ This is one of those and it wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

9-10 months is a long time when you’ve first recorded a song and when you come back to doing a final mix on it for mastering. In that amount of time, you’ll hear things differently than when you first recorded it and your skills in mixing (and troubleshooting) probably will have improved (perhaps exponentially!). For the reason of this time lag, I’ll probably release a couple of EPs of 3-4 songs (next) between full albums – the songs eventually end up on the album anyway.

3) Set your deadlines and meet them. If you’re on a record company roster, this is largely decided for you. If you’re doing everything yourself, you’re the ‘project manager’ so to speak, so develop a roll-out plan with milestones (logistics). As an Indie musician, you’re essentially running a small business (just don’t expect any small business loans from the government).

Releasing an album is an investment…. in yourself and your business.

As far as setting deadlines, build a little ‘slippage’ time into dates when things will be finished to account for the unexpected. Some things will probably take a little longer than expected and you want your album to be as good as possible, but it helps to have a plan for when things need to be done. It’s all in the details, including the ‘devil.’ Work as quickly as you can and if you start getting bogged down on mixing a song, move on to the next and come back to it – it’ll still be there (waiting patiently for you).

Indie is do-it-yourself music, synonymous for hard work and no sleep.

Yes, it is, and the process and journey is the best part.

"In 4 the Evening," the 2nd album... coming May, 2012

The Nights on Venus debut album is currently available as a digital download (MP3) and can be found on CDBabyiTunesAmazon.mp3eMusic, and other fine online retailers. The new album “In 4 the Evening” will be released May 27th, 2012.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

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Author: nightsonvenus

Musician and producer with the band Nights on Venus.

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